In the garage the donut games have begun: the string is strung, and the donuts hang from it, light, sweet Krispy Kreme gems. The competitors have donned garbage bags to protect their costumes. The bags rattle and float, turning them all into ghosts. The Grim Reaper presides over the festivities, final arbiter as to who has eaten her strung donut fastest without using her hands. He’s an ironic Reaper, with a tag that says:
He’s not at all like the real thing, I say.
Not so very long ago, I had a cat named Beanie. Beanie was a spiteful, angry creature. Beanie was a meanie. She was was prone to scratching people who tried to pet her. She carved the Roman numeral nine into the soft flesh of a friend’s hand. IX: the number of her bitter lives. Beanie was my pet, but I can’t say I loved her – or that she loved anything. In her final month, though, she became kind. She purred, and allowed herself to be petted.
In late September, she weighed almost nothing and no longer could be convinced to eat. As I did every night, I wrapped her in blankets and settled her into a nook with a heating pad before I went to sleep. Sometime later, I heard her struggle out onto the hard tile floor; she was having trouble walking, and I rolled over to turn on the light.
The Grim Reaper stood in the corner, between my white dresser and the closet door.
He didn’t have a scythe, and I couldn’t see enough to tell if he wore the traditional cowl. I couldn’t see enough because he was an absence of light, a darkness so complete I’ve never seen anything like it, not even in Hurricane Isabel’s aftermath when all of the power was out. It was a darkness beyond anything you can imagine, and I was afraid that if I moved to help Beanie, he would take me instead.
Beanie’s struggles got worse. A lot of things about horror are trite, it turns out. Her breathing and bodily functions rattled: a death rattle.
I turned on the light and dropped down out of my bed to cradle Beanie; the entire time, she stared at the space between my dresser and the closet.
When she breathed her last, she was staring at the Grim Reaper.
We both jump a little at the sudden shouts and clapping. The donut game is finished, and all the participants are laughing, their faces covered in donut icing and joy. The ironic Reaper puts a plastic medal over the winner’s head, and he raises her arm: mock triumph.
Remember: you can win an ebook copy of my novel Stolen Climates by leaving a comment with the phrase “Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor.”